Archive for the 'DPP' Category

21
Mar
08

One more on politicking…

Tomorrow is the general election for the presidency here in Taiwan.  Coincidentally, I received my absentee ballot today too.

Here’s one of the ubiquitous posters for the KMT, Blue party with Ma Ying-Jeou and his running mate:

Don’t they look like they’re just beseeching the voters to take pity on them?  😉   Here in Taipei, it’s hard to believe that Hsieh Chang Ting really is running, since it’s a very blue area in general.

But this weekend when we were in the South in Tainan, there was a huge long main road lined with DPP Party supporters:

See how the banner has an index finger up?  It stands for #1, which is where Hsieh is listed on the ballot.

Thumbs’ up also means #1 for Hsieh.

A ubiquitous election truck.  (Sorry these were all taken behind the window of my uncle’s car as my aunt maneuvered through traffic as best she could– so there is some glare).

After 10 PM tonight, all politicking is supposed to cease, so hopefully I will be able to get through lessons next week without being interrupted thanks to giggling and grumbles from my students as another election truck plays its marches and drums out a candidate’s name.

May the best man for the country win.

11
Feb
08

My take on the Chen Shui Bien scandal long after it’s old news…

Ookay, so I was really going to be good and start cleaning right away, but then I figured I should reply to the lovely people who have so graciously commented on my blog… Lo and behold, replying to this little question of misanthrope‘s in response to my post on democracy in Taiwan: “What is your take on the scandal that brought down the previous government?” has led me to a whole, what would be called a “blessay” by that lovely Renaissance man, wosshisname… Stephen Fry. Of course, by me, it’s probably more of a digression (bligression?) than anything else, and I make no claims to have a clue as to what I’m talking about, most of which is drawn from hearsay. That said… Here’s the original “comment”:

Hmmm… Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, my father told me sternly before I came here not to get involved in politics… Then proceeded to avidly question me whenever we chatted about politics, to which my usual answer was to cheekily remind him of his command and say I had no idea.

I actually haven’t followed things too much here, honestly, Michael Turton’s blog would probably be best to look at for this sort of thing…

Disclaimer aside, as far as I HAVE followed things… Continue reading ‘My take on the Chen Shui Bien scandal long after it’s old news…’

22
Jan
08

Democracy…

Back in the US, the presidential primaries are upon us. I’m looking forward to being back home for the 2008 election, since casting my ballot from Korea in the crowded US consulate was fun, but left me with no one to sympathize with my despair post-election day. I missed being a New Yorker and hearing a collective sigh or shout for joy the way I would when it was baseball season and my neighbor across the courtyard was having a party.

Any other American expats looking to vote in the primaries should check out The Overseas Vote Foundation, which allows you to register and print out and mail your registration for the absentee ballot back to your local election bureau. This article by the Associated Press offers a few more resources for overseas voters.

Here in Taiwan, the election trucks have taken a break and I can get through class without generating general hilarity by innocently inquiring if the martial music wheeling by outside with an energetic voice calling out “by toh, by toh….” was an advertisement for Lin’s Tofu. Apparently, a local politician’s name is not really “tofu” though it sounded that way to me.

Right before the election which saw the blue party (the KMT) which is very popular around here (I am, after all in Taipei), sweep the legislature, there were trucks going around every fifteen minutes it seemed. When I was in the Bronx, the noise pollution during class involved the ice cream truck (ten minutes before school let out, it was parked on the curb and ready), and the local boom-boxed car that would make the street vibrate with salsa or hip hop (try teaching with a straight face while your kids are shimmy-shaking to the beat outside…)

My students here are certainly more politically involved than the ones I taught in the Bronx, having opinions about the green party (Chen Shuei Bian’s embattled Democratic Progressive Party) and the blue party (the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party brought to the island with Chiang Kai Shek). Many of them joined their parents in the rallies that filled Taipei streets with a sea of red shirts and thumbs down, asking for Chen Shui Bian’s resignation after the scandal last year. One of my colleagues told me she overheard her first-grade students arguing over who got to play Ma Ying Jeou (the KMT presidential candidate and former mayor of Taipei), and Frank Hsieh (the DPP presidential candidate) on the playground. Continue reading ‘Democracy…’

28
Feb
07

228

My computer and camera seem to have reconciled– so here are shots from tonight:

The 228 Memorial in Taipei this evening.

 

The scent of the lilies was fragrant and the sound of running water was everywhere– it drips all around the circle enclosing the open pyramid of sorts, and within the pyramid it falls down into a well.

The inside circle of the open pyramid has handprints around the middle– they’re adults, mostly bigger than mine.

The water falling down the center well almost looks solid in this photo.

The water streaming under the edge of the pool.

People of all ages were there. These people were looking at this:

The translated text is at http://www.taiwandc.org/228-intr.htm

We had off work today to commemorate the 228 (er er ba) incident, which was the spark that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Taiwanese people at the hands of the Kuomintang (KMT) government, headed by Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. It was the beginning of martial law, when people would be taken to police stations never to return, and was the sort of incident that is remembered in whispers, for fear of reprisals.

My mother tells me politics in Taiwan was always shunned in conversation, because it was such a dangerous topic. My grandfather (her father) was brought to the police station, and for one tense evening, my family didn’t know if he would become one of those who “disappeared” in those days. He was a surgeon, and a KMT soldier he was trying to save died. There were questions as to whether he had provided adequate care, and thanks to the testimony of other observers, he was released. Reading about the “White Terror” as it seems to be called, when many educated men were rounded up and executed, I feel so very lucky that he was able to watch his children grow up and that I was able to know his voice, the clack of his wooden slippers on the floor, and the feel of his old hand in mine as we walked to the park.

I got my history from tenth grade “World Cultures” with Mr. D. The only mention of Taiwan in the history book was when the KMT fled the mainland and came to Taiwan in 1949. The only knowledge I had of my own family history was that we were “Han people”– from China, so for a while, I had the mistaken idea that my family had come over with the smiling Chiang Kai Shek. (He’s always smiling. On the coins, in most of his statues that I’ve seen, he has a sort of benign grin that belies the order to kill thousands of people. Mao tends to have a grin on his posters, too. Lenin tends to look stern. Hitler always looks scary or deranged. Stalin’s moustache hides his mouth, but he generally looks stern or slightly squinty too. One Google image search of Saddam Hussein and propaganda shows a propaganda poster of him grinning too. The facial expressions worn by tyrants in propaganda to the oppressed and the rest of the world is probably fodder for a blogpost in itself, but I resent that smile. I don’t know what my paternal grandfather looked like when he smiled, but I know what Chiang Kai Shek’s smile looks like– this seems wrong, when my paternal grandfather also was someone who cared for people, while CKS was ordering the deaths of thousands.) This article in the Taipei Times talks about CKS and the fate of some of his smiling statues.

“Kill them all, keep it secret.” was CKS’s reported telegram to the then-governor of Taiwan, when asked what to do about the protests by the native Taiwanese. My family was native Taiwanese. My mother’s side has been in Taiwan for eleven generations (with my cousin’s children, I think), having come over in the 1700s (Check me on this, Mom). My father’s side has been in Taiwan since the 1800s. So in 1945, when the Republic of China regained control of Taiwan from the Japanese, my family actually had been in Taiwan for a very long time already.

“We were Japanese.” My aunt told me. Japan had run Taiwan as a colony for fifty years, building railroads, planning urban areas (some of those plans are still used as guidance for development), and banning spoken Taiwanese in schools. However, my grandparents’ first language was Japanese. My grandfathers and several of my uncles received medical training in Japan. To this day, my dad is more commonly referred to in the family by his Japanese name. My aunt tells me they didn’t have to lock their doors when Japan ruled the island. Japan allowed them to be educated as long as they stayed out of politics (Taiwan had no representation in the Japanese government, in spite of petitioning for it). Taiwanese men were drafted to fight with Japan in WWII and some of their remains are in veterans memorials in Japan. My grandfather was an officer in the Japanese army in Taiwan. Food got short as supplies went to the WWII soldiers in China. My mother tells me that my grandfather refused to eat sweet potato with his rice after those times.  It was the only option since the rice was so scarce.  The sweet potato in the rice was dried in the sun and tasted moldy.  Although I have heard that Japan was also brutal in putting down the resistance to their rule in the early stage of colonization, and resentment that they forbade Taiwanese language in schools, their rule seems to have been indisputably organized and ordered.

The soldiers who came from China in 1945 reportedly dug up the paved roads for latrines and used chamber pots for their rice (this is hearsay, which may or may not be true).

Frustration with the KMT rule bubbled out in protests sparked when KMT soldiers beat a woman for selling contraband cigarettes on February 27th, 1947. The following day, protesters were killed by the KMT. Protests arose all over the country, and many more people died. There is a 228 Museum, close to the memorial, which chronicles all of this. I haven’t been inside yet, but its existence is significant in and of itself.

The KMT ruled Taiwan undisputed until martial ended and democracy came with Lee Teng-Hui in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Until then, 228 was a forbidden topic. Though the KMT is still a very powerful political party, the change to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has opened discussion about the role of the KMT in Taiwanese history and 228 and its White Terror aftermath.

The CKS Memorial is down the street from the 228 Memorial, and tonight it was filled with people and light for the lantern festival, which was kind of incongruous, but uplifting. When I was sitting by the 228 Memorial, I thought about it and all the other memorials and museums there are for the massacres of innocents– the Holocaust, Khmer Rouge’s massacre in Cambodia, and so forth. And these are just government-instituted massacres. The numbers of the dead are often disputed or incomprehensible. Even if they’re not, each number is a person enmeshed in a place, connected to friends and family.

To treat life as if it were worthless, without regret –
those in power are letting this happen.
  from “Zhan Zuo-zhou’s Complete Works” by Zhang Rui-he

After writing these two poems, the elderly doctor was imprisoned for over 90 days in 1950 on falsified charges. After he was released, Dr. Zhan spent most of his leisurely time growing chrysanthemums.

— from the 228 Museum website.

Buckets of chrysanthemums surround the 228 monument. They also happen to be one of my grandmother’s favorite flowers, and her namesake.

Being in Taiwan now, I really miss members of my family that have died and are no longer around to explain a photograph or answer my questions. It’s like a part of the world is missing and now there’s a hole with no one alive to explain what went there in some cases. There’s also possibilities lost– to learn how to cook from my grandmother, or hear about my grandfather’s experience as a soldier, or even know if my paternal grandfather would actually smile off-camera. They all died of natural causes, and I can’t quite imagine the feelings of the survivors of someone murdered by the government, which is theoretically supposed to protect you. I want to see this film, Taiwan’s Love about the survivors and their experiences, though I’ll need to wait for an English subbed version at some point (or the drastic improvement in my Chinese skills).

Anyway, I know it’s just another day off of work, but I share the hope that remembering 228 will somehow help people remember that a peaceful democracy isn’t easy to achieve and maintain. I was so amazed at the amount of involvement in the protests of this past fall against President Chen Shui Bian, but considering the history of protest in Taiwan and the human cost of the democracy he has been honored with the responsibility to guide, it isn’t as surprising.

I hope that Taiwan will be able to keep peace, and I am humbled by those who have suffered and died for that peace.

More on 228, etc.:

http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article-eastasia.asp?parentid=64424 talks about the museum, and more.

http://www.taiwandc.org/228-60.htm talks more about the 228 incident and White Terror.

Formosa Betrayed is the eyewitness account of American about 228.

Island in the Stream: A Quick Case Study of Taiwan’s Complex History by April C.J. Lin and Jerome F. Keating is my quick and dirty start into learning about the book-version of Taiwanese history.




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